Roberts said ultimately there could be a refueling depot orbiting Earth and where satellites could be refueled. The satellite would be directed to the depot and a robotic arm on the station would reach out and pull the satellite in for refueling.
On the other hand, the refueling mechanism might be more like a tugboat, which goes to the satellites and refuels them in their normal orbit.
"I think this will show the community what robots can do, " Roberts said. "It's all very exciting. This is exactly why I came to NASA Goddard."
NASA also is sending the first iPhone into space onboard Atlantis. According to the space agency, Odyssey Space Research, a Texas-based company, has built an iPhone app that should enable astronauts to track the results of various experiments and might even aid with navigation. The phone will be kept on the space station for use there.
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